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November 09, 2007

'FireStream' Chip from AMD Delivers More Graphics Processing Horsepower

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Associate Editor

Computer chipmaker AMD (News - Alert) is keeping up with the drive for faster and faster computing processors. The company on Thursday unveiled a new graphics chip that’s designed to process large amounts of multimedia data.

The FireStream chip has potential applications in the engineering, financial and scientific industries and is AMD’s answer to Nvidia Corp’s initiative launched earlier this year to find new uses for powerful graphics chips, Reuters said in a Thursday report.
While the FireStream chip is ideal for processor-intensive, graphics-heavy applications, it is not designed for run-of-the-mill desktop software like word processing and Web browsing, Reuters noted. Like other high-performance chips, AMD’s latest product contains a very large number of transistors and may be more powerful than a computer’s main processor.
Reuters said FireStream is a stepping-stone project for AMD, which is working on an initiative dubbed Fusion to combine graphics and central processors on a single piece of silicon. The company hopes to roll out such a unified processing product by early 2009. Fusion technology could be used to create more powerful laptop computers where space for multiple processors is limited.
In the meantime, users looking for more graphics processing horsepower will be able to buy a FireStream chip (based on AMD’s Radeon product line built by the company’s ATI unit) for $2,000, Reuters said. The FireStream chip, to be manufactured by Taiwanese contractor TSMC, contains 660 million transistors and 320 processing units. It’s also very small: 55 nanometers wide, versus 65 nanometers for AMD’s top-end computer processors.
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Mae Kowalke is an associate editor for TMCnet, covering VoIP, CRM, call center and wireless technologies. She also blogs for TMCnet here.

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